Book Review: The Wright Brothers by David McCullough

I had three reasons to read this book:
1. I have great admiration for David McCullough’s writing, having read other books by him (My favorite is John Adams.)
2. (A personal connection.) I used to work at the A. I. Root Co. in Medina, Ohio, makers of beekeeping supplies, beeswax candles, and publishers of a beekeeping magazine
3. (A second personal connection.) My grandfather tried to build an airplane in the 1930s.
I found this a fascinating book. The Wright brothers are legendary for their perseverance in the face of adversity, failures, and the overwhelming disbelief of the public. Their dedication to the work that went into their final success ahead of others who were racing along the same path toward the invention of a flying machine, is rarely seen today. They were endlessly experimenting and rebuilding, shaping their ideas into the materials of the aeroplane, from the challenging extreme conditions at Kitty Hawk in the Outer Banks of North Carolina to the first flight on December 17, 1903. From Huffman Prairie to exhibitions in France. Minutes, then hours of flights. The first accidents. The first death by airplane. Injuries that almost killed Orville.
Incredible fact – no one would print the story of the first flight of man in their newspaper…because “no one would believe them.” It first appeared in a bee magazine – Gleanings in Bee Culture in January 1905. I learned this in 1980 when I worked at The A. I. Root Co. in Medina, Ohio as assistant to the editor of that same magazine. Amos Ives Root was an inventor himself and was fascinated with the work of the Wright Brothers and all things new in the world of machines and science.
Second incredible fact – the American Government was not interested in the Wright brothers’ invention, nor was the Smithsonian, nor Scientific American. The U.S. Government said “what use could there possibly be?” The Wrights took their invention to the French, who WERE interested and welcomed them. …I want to tell you the whole story but let me instead recommend you read the book.
In the 1930s my grandfather attempted to fly an “airplane” he built. It didn’t fly.

Llewelllyn Woodhull's airplane_20180208_0001

As for the A.I. Root Co., they remained avid supporters of flying. In 1981, I flew in a small plane with John Root as pilot to a bee meeting in Michigan. I wonder what Amos Ives Root would have thought if he could have had a glimpse of that future day.


2 thoughts on “Book Review: The Wright Brothers by David McCullough

  1. The Wright Bros. overcoming adversity? The same could be said of your struggles with an utterly recalcitrant computer. Your persistence has resulted in yet another delightful and informative review. Much appreciated.


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